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Next generation of Arkansas teachers celebrated at state Capitol

A state edu day.jpg
Ronak Patel
Students from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro sign certificates to show their commitment to becoming educators.

Arkansas educators, students and lawmakers gathered at the state Capitol on Friday to celebrate the state's next generation of teachers. The Arkansas Department of Education hosted its annual Educator Commitment Signing Day, which is similar to an athletic signing day but for college students pursuing careers in education.

The day was created as a way to encourage students to follow that path, said Education Secretary Johnny Key. College students signed certificates, which was met by applause that filled the Capitol Rotunda.

Prior to the signing of the certificates, Gov. Asa Hutchinson shared the importance teachers had in his life.

“All of us can recall in our life being inspired by a teacher. From my standpoint, I grew up on a small farm outside of Gravette at a small school. My parents had high school educations, but somehow they knew instinctively the importance of education and encouraged me. Education has made a difference in my life,” Hutchinson said.

Asa with Key.JPG
Ronak Patel
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state Secretary of Education Johnny Key shared the importance that teachers have on the state.

Jessica Shadel, a student from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, signed a certificate saying she wants to become a special education teacher for elementary students after graduating in 2024.

“I have a learning disability and the special education program wasn’t where it needed to be, so I want to make a difference for the students who might not have a severe disability but who have a bit of a learning disability,” Shadel said.

Victoria Groves-Scott, the dean of the College of Education at the University of Central Arkansas, said in an interview with KUAR News that students she works with are motivated to become teachers because of the difference they believe they can make.

“They want to reach out to the students that might have trouble in school to help them be successful in life. They want to make connections with families and parents and make sure our communities are stronger. It is always centered on the children, they really want to make a difference for kids,” Groves-Scott said.

The challenge for the next generation of educators, she said, will be handling the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After COVID, we’re seeing a lot of more issues in schools with children having more need and trauma. Teachers are going to have to really empathize and build social and emotional intelligence to build their capacity for empathy, so they can encourage and support children as they make their way through schools,” Groves-Scott said.

After signing their certificates, students had the opportunity to speak with and take photos with Hutchinson, Key and 2021 Arkansas Teacher of the Year Susanna Post.